The 2011 Academy Award-nominated short films play at IFC Center through Oscar night, February 27.
Luke Matheny, of Bed-Stuy, directed the live-action short nominee God of Love. Interviewed by Benjamin Sutton.
Both God of Love and your previous short, Earano, are romantic comedies that play with and in places subvert tropes of the genre; what attracted you to rom-coms?
I don't consciously set out to tackle a specific genre; that said, I invariably gravitate to material that can potentially be funny, romantic and a little fantastical.
You used to be a synopsis writer for Netflix; how was that? Did you find it helpful/enjoyable, as a lover and student of film, or were your forced to watch things that you really didn't want to watch? Has it affected your filmmaking in any tangible way?
I guess the biggest thing I took away was—a horrible movie can sound good and interesting in a few sentences, and a great movie can sound lousy and uninteresting in a few sentences.
How was God of Love received by your peers in the NYU graduate film program?
Warmly. We all support each other's work very strongly.
So much of God of Love is set in the city (you filmed mostly in Williamsburg, it looked like?), but idyllic countryside bookends the short; where did you film that pastoral scene?
The New York locations were in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. The rural location is Curwensville, Pa., the hometown of my script supervisor and editor Levi Abrino (who, incidentally, was the invaluable crew member who presided over the monitor during all the scenes I acted in, which was almost the whole movie).
Do you prefer to act or direct? Is doing both the ideal situation for you, or more of a necessity?
I like doing both. The dirty secret of filmmaking is that shoots can often be pretty boring. Wearing two big hats keeps me busy.
Is there any particular experience in your life that inspired the story of nonreciprocated attraction in God of Love?
Not specifically, no. But I have plenty of experience with nonreciprocated attraction.
Why did you shoot in black and white?
My DP Bobby Webster and I were eager to really sell the jazz-world setting in the opening scenes, and we thought that B&W would fit perfectly with that plan. And then once we got to the outside world, we knew that New York would look great in B&W. Also, it gives the movie an overall nostalgic, romantic quality, which I enjoy and think plays nicely against the goofier comic elements.
You've co-written a film, A Birder's Guide to Everything, that's currently in pre-production; what is it about? Will you be involved in filming at all? Do you know what your next project as a director will be? Will you continue to act?
It's a coming-of-age comedy about a group of teen birdwatchers who embark on a quest to find a duck that was thought to have gone extinct. I wrote it with my friend and NYU classmate Rob Meyer. It's a feature-length expansion of his wonderful short film Aquarium (which did well at Sundance a few years ago). The project is his to direct, and I couldn't be more excited for him. We're also working on a feature romantic-comedy script about a second-class genie, which is going well so far. As for my own stuff, I'm working on a feature comedy called Ron Quixote that I hope to direct and act in.
How does it feel to be nominated?
I imagine it's a little like getting ready for one's own wedding. You're obviously excited and emotional, but what's weirder is that everyone around you is freaking out about it all the time.
How has your Oscar experience been so far?
Amazing-and exhausting. My anticipation for the actual ceremony is slowly being replaced by my anticipation for the celebratory Pacific-coast getaway with my girlfriend the night after the Oscars.
Have you seen the other films in your category?
I've seen one—The Confession—which is frustratingly brilliant. And more frustratingly, it was made by an extremely nice guy. His name is Tanel Toom, who won Best Foreign Film at the Student Oscars the same time that I won the Gold Medal. I was so thrilled for him when his film was nominated.
How do you fancy your chances?
Trying not to think about it.
Will you write a speech?
I plan to write one. I'm not superstitious about jinxing myself or anything.
Care to give us a preview?
I still need to write it.